It's Bonus Book Review Saturday, and today we've got a thrill for you…
Black Ops Zulu: Pivotal Velocity
Tom Stiles is Australia’s James Bond—part philosopher, part killing machine and always the ladies’ man. Follow his journey from family man and fraud investigator to elite Black Ops secret agent who has full authority to use deadly force to complete his covert missions.
Recent events have left Tom craving distraction in the form of adrenalin rush. When Tom’s lover dies in a catastrophic accident, her father Vlad, a Chechen Mafia member, makes a dangerous demand. This deadly favour gets Tom in deep with Cerberus, a criminal mastermind with links to international terrorism. When the Prime Minister of Australia appoints him as Chair of a new international fraud taskforce, Tom is left wondering if there is more to this than it seems. Stiles does what other agents can’t do.
My Review: 4 Stars
While the story was pretty decent overall, it was definitely not what I expected. This is not much of a thriller, but more of the prequel to a thriller. Imagine if you read the back story of why John Clark of Tom Clancy fame decided to become the bad-ass he is, and you have an idea of what this book is like.
The book felt slow-paced (not plodding, but not a fast-paced, heart-wrenching thriller that I was expecting), which is fine considering that it's the back story of this (future) bad-ass agent. I'm certain that Book 2 and beyond will show the bad-ass side of him, but for now, Tom Stiles is very much NOT a James Bond--more of an Average Joe than anything else. In the story, he is supposed to have a lot of awesome military training, but he doesn't come off as a brass-balled bad-ass. Instead, he's more of a slightly tougher-than-average man going through a bit of a midlife crisis.
At least at first. I didn't feel much of a "thrill" until about 75% into the story, when things start happening more quickly and a potentially awesome villain is introduced. That's when it started picking up, and by the end, you've seen the first shadows of the "Australian James Bond" that the book claims.
There was one part of the story that was supposed to be intensely emotional, but I felt the author did us a disservice by rushing through it. There was less than one page to describe what should have been the most important scene in the whole book. I felt NO emotion at that part, which is disappointing.
One huge issue for me: the book is missing out on A LOT of commas. Perhaps the punctuation rules in Australia/New Zealand are different than the U.S. (the books I'm accustomed to reading), but the lack of commas was pretty glaring for me.
That being said, it was an enjoyable book, with a decent story, and enough of a "hook" to make me want to find out what happens next.
Here's a Taste:
Lightning speared through the worn blinds of the Motel Voyager. Tom Stiles fastened his Jaeger-LeCoultre around his wrist, his face pulsing between light and dark. Rain plunged down outside.
“Natasha, summer’s over,” Tom said, without turning from the storm outside.
“I’m glad, I hate the heat.”
Tom looked over the grey brown carpet and followed the trail of hat, dress, bra and stockings to the bed. She lay beneath the sheets with her arm stroking the pillow which still retained the impression of his head.
“It means I have to go, now.”
Natasha turned to the bedside table, unclipped a cigarette from her diamond-studded cigarette case and lit it.
“So I was just your seasonal lover, is that it?”
“You are more than that Tash, but we knew this day was coming.”
“Save me the, it’s not you, I still love my wife speech!”
“I have to return to my daughters.”
“Don’t give me that Tom. Don’t tell me you have to leave; you’re volunteering to leave. You could take me with you… At least, stay one more night, come back to bed.”
Tom did not turn around but he could see her reflection in the mirror. She had pushed aside the sheet covering her body. He closed his eyes. He knew that one more glimpse of her thigh, or her silhouette against the crumpled pink sheets would weaken his resolve. Taking a sip from his hip flask, he picked up his heavy fire fighting boots and walked out the door. He heard a glass shatter on the door behind him.
Tom ran through the dark car park, hunched against the storm. His black BMW was parked next to Natasha’s dark green convertible with the number plate MG 1979. He turned the key in the ignition and the radio started up, the three a.m. news was just beginning. Tom thought he should sit through the rain. He turned on his mobile. Fifteen missed calls, all from Victoria. Well, what did he expect? He was due home hours ago. Garth Brooks began singing Thunder Rolls and Tom pulled out onto the Great Western Highway.
The city’s silhouette throbbed in the distance but the road ahead was devoid of taillights. Now and again a truck passed in the opposite direction. He came to a complete stop at the intersection in front of a red light, and glanced at the clock—three forty-five. He exhaled for what seemed like the first time that summer. Home soon, he thought. Another summer of fighting fires was over, another few houses saved, some scares but no death, no scars, and no harm done. Excluding the harm he had done to Natasha. He thought of her lying naked beneath him again and let the thought go. Home, soon.
He exhaled again, and asked himself if he really did still love Victoria. He had imagined taking Natasha home with him but that was not possible. Yes, he had contemplated it but knew it would destroy Victoria. And it was far too soon after the death of their mother to turn his daughters’ lives upside down again. The girls were still grieving, as he was, and they had become accustomed to Victoria being around. He had lost his parents when he was a child and that pain defined him. There had been other women after his wife Helen’s death, women he had found every summer when he volunteered. He would search them for any resemblance to Helen and judge them against what was now becoming a faded, idealized image of her. But Natasha, he was falling in love with Natasha for the way she smoked a cigarette, the slight Russian accent that became more prominent when she swore and her indefatigable body.
He struggled then, as he always had, to make some connection between all these things. The death of his wife, the death of his parents and his brother ... they were like withered bouquets left by the side of the road. The long tuneless white noise of death had followed him his entire life. He felt no sense of resolution; he often puzzled over an indistinct question that woke him, noiseless, always around midnight. But beside Natasha he slept at ease.
A sheet of what looked like lightning illuminated the entire crossroads and shocked Tom into pressing the brakes even harder as he waited for the lights to turn green. Tyres screeched behind him. Suddenly, his body jolted forward and the air bag exploded in his face. Pain seared through him. And then there was no horizon lights, no road, no car, nothing except pain from his spine to his fingertips and a sense of helpless, unbidden flying, as if he had entered a recurring dream. Then the car seemed to gather him back in. A wheel rolled past the driver side window. Then, darkness.
About the Author:
Arthur Bozikas lives in Sydney and is the CEO of a Non-Government Organisation (NGO). He is married and has two children. In his early 40’s Arthur returned to university and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Management. During this period, Tom Stiles inception was created out of a combination of short stories Arthur wrote, while developing his creative writing skills during the long breaks in between classes.
Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B00TRMJV1Q
Or on the B&N Store: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-ops-zulu-arthurbozikas/1121251179?ean=9781925271324
Read a review: https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/black-ops-zulu/
Find out more about Tom Stiles on his website: http://tomstilesthrillers.blogspot.com.au/
Tweet at Arthur: https://twitter.com/ArthurBozikas
Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TomStilesThrillerSeries